I was reading the HBR article called A New Game Plan for C Players and it got me thinking. Of course, the point of the article was how C-players hurt your business. They are bad for morale of the rest of the team, and as a good friend of mine says, “they can do negative work” – suggesting that having a C-player around can actually cause you to spend more time fixing their work than just doing it yourself correctly the first time.
What struck me though, was that while we all tend to agree that yes, C-players are bad for our teams, and yes, we should be better about taking action, I don’t feel that we actually spend time doing self-reflection to see if maybe we ourselves might be performing at less than our own A-game.
I was reminded recently that the most critical thing to “get right” for ourselves and our teams is a well aligned role to the individual. Keeping all examples to myself to avoid offending anyone, I can say with confidence that if my job were to help people who are lost get out of the woods, it is clear I would be the worst suited for it. If nagging people about deadlines and commitments is the job, then I’m a much better fit. Just ask my husband.
I have had the fortune (twice actually) of finding myself interviewing for a position in which the job description was a complete match for my experience. In both cases, these jobs were not only rewarding for me personally, I also managed to deliver products that had significant monetary benefit for the companies that hired me. By all measures this was A-player work. I was happy, I was challenged, and the work I delivered benefited.
On the flip side, I have also managed to get myself stretched outside of my core competencies in such a way that the results of my efforts were so inferior I could not even fire myself, but had to give myself the task of cleaning up the mess first. While this made for a great poster and I did learn a lot, in retrospect, I know I should have done a better job in recognizing the signs and doing something about them, as a lot of people got hurt as a result of my C-player work.
So what is my real message here? First, I’d encourage us each to realize that we are each capable of both A-player and C-player work. For the majority of us fortunate enough to be considered “professionals,” life is not a huxley-esque situation where you are pre-defined as an alpha or an epsilon.
It is up to us to best determine
- How do we quantify our talents?
- How do we align our talents with the jobs we are given?
- How do we push ourselves to give our best performance?
Not just for the benefit of the company, but for the benefit of ourselves. Like anything else, the best way to “not” be a C-player is to take an active role in your own performance. What do you have to lose?